What led to Cleveland 911 system failure when a baby died?

Midwest

CLEVELAND (WJW) – NewsNation affiliate WJW in Cleveland, Ohio is looking into what went wrong on the night the local 911 system failed and a baby died. They investigated who’s to blame for the breakdown.

A 15-month old child died last week after a medical emergency. His family called for a Cleveland ambulance, but the call went to a recording for more than six minutes. The family took the baby to the hospital, but he didn’t make it.

Now, his grandmother is demanding the same explanation WJW is trying to get.

“When I close my eyes, all I see is me holding my lifeless grandbaby in my arms due to the neglect of 911. I’m not asking for no sympathy. I’m asking for answers and I’m asking for help,” Stephanice Washington said.

The 911 recording shows the baby’s uncle heard a recording over and over as it said, “You have reached 911 for Cleveland EMS and fire. All operators are handling other emergencies.”

The call first went to the Cuyahoga County dispatch. Then, when the county transferred it to the city 911 center, the recording kicked in. Confusion can be heard as the caller and the county dispatcher tried to talk over the recording.

The city released a statement saying, in part, “At this time, the CEMS Dispatch Center was fully staffed and had operators available to take incoming calls. When the city learned that this call had not properly transferred, an investigation was initiated.”

The city statement also blamed maintenance on the 911 computer system overseen by the county.

The city said, “This software update prevented (Cleveland EMS) call takers from picking up/answering the call.”

So, WJW also contacted the county.

Brandy Carney, chief of special operations for Cuyahoga County, said techs did do routine maintenance that night, but there were backups in place.

“From what we can see at this point, we do not see that it was a system issue,” Carney said.

But, if there were no technical problems, why didn’t that call get answered?

Carney suggested, maybe, a problem seen before.

“What’s happened in the past, unfortunately, there’s low staffing and the calls don’t get answered. And the recording picks up, and that could’ve been what happened here,” Carney said.

Again, though, the city claims staffing was not a problem.

The county is now conducting an internal review to find out the problems that hampered emergency response.

“I need some answers,” Washington said. “Within those minutes of calling 911, I feel it could’ve saved my grandbaby’s life.”

Washington says the family is struggling to come up with the money to bury the child.

At the same time, the problem could lead to changes in the city and county 911 system.

The city statement also said, “Due to reoccurring issues with the 911 call system platform, the current process is being evaluated. The city is also working with CECOMS on methods to avoid future issues.”

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